The National Hockey League is the toughest professional league to be a General Manager in. They have a hard salary cap (unlike most leagues) of $75 million, and must employ upwards of 18 players at any point in time, each fitting under that cap. The average NHL salary is about $3M and considering that some of the top players in the league earn $12M-plus, it is an incredibly tough task to build a successful, deep club in today’s NHL. With all of that being said, there are some GMs who just take bad decisions to a whole new level. Mistakes can be made here and there but most of the ones included on this list were obviously poor decisions right from the start. From players making $6M-plus to produce at a third-liner’s pace to those who are being paid upwards of $4M to not even play for their NHL team, this list will detail 20 of the worst contracts currently in the National Hockey League. Happy reading!
20. Patrick Marleau – $6,250,000
The most recently-signed contract on this list, Marleau still has some time to prove that his inclusion in this article is not warranted. However, as of now, Marleau’s deal doesn’t seem very smart from the Leafs’ perspective. The veteran forward will already be 38 by the time this season starts and his contract has him signed for a further two years after that!
The average annual value of the deal is $6.25M, making him the highest-paid player on the team, even though there are much better players entering their prime (not exiting it) that this money could have been used on in the coming years. Adding to this large-money, large-term deal for an already-old player, the deal has a no movement clause attached to it, meaning the Leafs can’t even move him (unless they have his permission) if the deal doesn’t work out.
19. Matt Moulson – $5,000,000
Moulson is a player that has been among finalists in the run for various trophies and awards but due to other star players he has not won. This left winger was drafted 263rd overall in the 2003 NHL entry draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Based on his draft position, its crazy to think he made an appearance in the NHL at all. In 2014, Moulson was signed to a five-year contract worth $5M yearly.
At the time, the Sabres probably thought they were going to obtain a veteran player to help the entire organization. From there, he posted just 94 points in 239 games with the Sabres. He has not done anything worth bragging about, which leads us to believe this was a mistake on the Sabres part. Paying a player $5M yearly is crazy when they are not producing quality hockey.
18. Johnny Boychuk – $6,000,000
Islanders GM Garth Snow has not exactly been known for making great moves during his 11-year tenure with the club. One of his worst moves yet could be the contract that he gave to Johnny Boychuk. The defenceman was taken in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft by the Colorado Avalanche and over the next eight years he never had a deal with more than three years of term on it, although he did stick with the Boston Bruins for almost seven seasons on short-term deals.
Why, then, would Snow think it was a good idea to sign the then-31-year-old to a seven-year deal with an average annual value of $6M?! Boychuk is a second-pairing D-man – nothing more, nothing less – and does not deserve that type of money or term. Already on the decline at age 33, the Isles will have to feel the regret of the Boychuk signing for another five seasons.
17. David Backes – $6,000,000
Backes is an aging player who spent 10 years with the St. Louis Blues before becoming a free agent in 2016-17 and signing with the Boston Bruins. Backes had a fairly average career with the Blues organization, posting 460 points in 727 games. In his free agency he signed a five-year, $30M contract with the Bruins organization. This seems to be a heavy contract for a player who is already 33 years old.
The Bruins organization made a mistake with signing this five-year contract. He makes $6M annually with the organization, making him one of the highest players on the Bruins. This most recent season he only posted 38 points in 74 games. This is a pretty low amount for a star ex-captain. His contact is taking the cap space of a young new player that could better help build the Bruins organization up.
16. Jason Pominville – $5,600,000
Jason Pominville was once a top-level scorer, putting up 62 or more points in each of his first five full NHL seasons (and twice eclipsing 72) with the Buffalo Sabres. Since being traded to the Minnesota Wild in 2013, his numbers have steadily declined, likely due to a wrath of injuries and age. Pominville’s current deal, signed in 2013 before his play went downhill, sees him being paid an average annual value of $5.6M through to 2019, when the Quebec native will be 36.
A three-time 30-goal-scorer, the winger has seen his scoring totals drop into the teens over the past three years, bottoming out at just 11 in 2015-16. Pominville has just recently been dealt back to the Sabres and they better hope that the 34-year-old returns to his old ways or they will be paying a third-line player first-line salary.
15. Dion Phaneuf – $7,000,000
Another contract on this list that not only seems preposterous to viewers, but makes the organization seem useless for signing it is the Ottawa Senators’ deal with Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf is a defender who began his career with the Calgary Flames, being drafted 9th-overall in the 2003 NHL entry draft. Since then he has posted good statistics as a defender, being recognized as a solid player for the entirety of his career.
Back in the 2015-16 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a team-changing deal where the Sens took on Phaneuf’s contract in a nine-player blockbuster trade. The Sens took on the remainder of a seven-year contract, paying Dion $7M yearly. This contract sees Phaneuf making more than Sens captain Erik Karlsson. Karlsson posted the highest points in the NHL as a defender and Phaneuf didn’t even make the cut off of top 20 point holders.
14. Carl Soderberg – $4,750,000
Soderberg is yet another player who is being paid top-line dollars but only producing at a third-line rate. Just one more mistake in a long line of bad decisions that led the Colorado Avalanche to the worst points total in over 15 years this past season, Soderberg’s contract sees him paid $4.75M annually.
The Swedish forward put up a ridiculous 14 points in 80 games this past season, something you would expect from someone getting paid the league minimum $575K, not someone being paid almost double the league average! The worst part for the Avs is that they have to pay the struggling Swede that amount for another three seasons, through to his 34th birthday, when he will surely still be on the decline from his prime years.
13. Justin Abdelkader – $4,250,000
Abdelkader is a 30-year-old left winger who has been an underwhelming player his entire career. He was drafted 42nd overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft to the Detroit Red Wings. After spending many years with their AHL affiliate, he finally made a 50-game appearance with the Red Wings. He has never been recognized as a star player for the team but the Red Wings signed him to a 7-year $29.75M contract in 2015.
The Red Wings made a poor choice with this contract. In the most recent season he posted only 21 points in 64 games, which is crummy for a player that made $5M this past season. The Red Wings organization is wasting money on a player that is not performing to the extent the team needs. Overall, this deal was an awful decision for the team as a whole, as they didn’t make the playoffs for the first time in 25 seasons.
12. The Sedins – $7,000,000
Most hockey fans can agree that Henrik and Daniel Sedin are the main reason why the Vancouver Canucks are in such a strange position as a franchise. The team is perennially in the bottom-ten of the league lately but they also seem to be buyers at the trade deadline every year, trying to squeeze what they can out of the Sedins’ tenure before their impending retirement. The twins were once an elite tandem, putting up nearly point-per-game totals from the mid-2000s until the early-2010s, but they have both fallen off as they near their late-30s.
The Swedes will likely produce at a 40-50 point pace for the remainder of their careers (however short that is). That is not a terrible output but considering that the duo cost the Canucks a combined $14M per season, it is certainly not up to snuff. Luckily, the Sedins’ contracts expire after next year, which will be their age-37 season, so the Canucks can shed their weight and move in a new direction for the future. It will just take a little bit of extra work thanks to the strange moves GM Jim Benning has made trying to build around the Sedins.
11. Bobby Ryan – $7,250,000
Another lengthy contract on this list is Bobby Ryan’s seven-year, $50.75M contract extension signed back in 2014 with the Ottawa Senators. He was once considered a top-tier right winger as he was drafted 2nd-overall in the 2005 NHL draft. The American has produced notable stats from 2014-16, but this most recent season begs to differ, and truly makes people question the consistency and ability of the aging Ryan.
This most recent NHL season, Ryan only put up 25 points in 62 games during the regular season. This is an extremely low amount of points for a player getting paid the most money in the entire Sens organization. Ryan just barely makes the top-10 point-holders on the Sens, as Erik Karlsson had almost three times as many points, while making $750K less. Overall, after this past season, the Sens look foolish for making an extension of this magnitude for a player who is not the same calibre he once was.
10. Roberto Luongo – $5,333,333
Roberto Luongo’s contract is so bad that the Vancouver Canucks couldn’t find a suitor for the elite netminder for almost two years before finally offloading him to Florida in exchange for a backup goalie and an aging third-liner in Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias. The man lovingly referred to as “Bobby Lou” has already put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career. He currently sits 5th all-time in wins and will easily reach 3rd place if he plays another two seasons.
Though his past has been awesome, the problem in his contract comes when you look towards the future. More specifically, five years into the future when the Florida Panthers will still be paying a 43-year-old Luongo $5.33M per season. The Canucks screwed up when they signed the Quebec native to such a long-term deal and although they were lucky enough to offload the contract, the deal is still one of the most head-scratching in recent memory.
9. Andrew MacDonald – $5,000,000
Andrew MacDonald’s contract is quite ridiculous. Back in 2006, he was drafted 160th-overall in the NHL entry draft to the New York Islanders. When his contract came to a conclusion he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. Prior to the start of 2013-14 season, the Flyers signed MacDonald to a six-year, $30M contract.
This contract is quite insane for a defender that does not produce notable statistics. On the Flyers team, MacDonald is the highest-paid defender and he wasn’t even among the top-10 point holders within the Flyers organization. Making $5M yearly is ridiculous for a player who has only had 42 points in 178 games over the past four years. In fact, MacDonald actually spent the majority of the 2015-16 season toiling in the AHL. This unbelievable amount of money is being put into a player that does not seem to be worthy of it at all.
8. Jori Lehtera – $4,700,000
The St. Louis Blues have been one of the more successful NHL franchises of the past decade, making good decisions with free agency, trades, and on draft day. With that said, there is only one thing you can say when looking at the deal they gave Jori Lehtera: “why”?
The 29-year-old centerman has played three NHL seasons, never putting up more than 44 points or 14 goals. After a 9-goal 2015-16 season, the Blues signed the Finn to a three-year deal with an average annual value of $4.7M. That’s comparable to the salary pulled in by perennial 25-goal scorers like Bryan Little and Chris Kreider. Luckily for the Blues, they were able to deal Lehtera’s bad contract to the Flyers, who will have to deal with their new overpaid centerman for another two seasons.
7. Andrew Ladd – $5,500,000
The New York Islanders organization is likely considered crazy after the contract they gave to Andrew Ladd. In 2016, the team sought out veteran left-winger Ladd when he became a free agent. They offered him a seven-year, $38.5M contract as a 30-year-old.
Looking at this deal, it is crazy that the team would waste so much of their money on a player that has passed his prime. Playing one season so far with the Islanders, he only produced 31 points in 78 games, which is not notable by any means. He is making the same money as John Tavares, who accumulated almost double the points that Ladd did in 2016-17. Overall, this is an awful contract on the Islanders side, as Ladd’s contract won’t be up for another six years, when the British Columbian will be 37. He is taking the spot of a young, new player the squad can build around.
6. Loui Eriksson – $6,000,000
Loui Eriksson was one of the biggest disappointments in the NHL last season. After three seasons of 70+ points with the Dallas Stars, Eriksson moved on to Boston where he put up a slightly lesser 63 points in 2015-16. This was enough to earn him a six-year deal from Vancouver worth $6M annually.
The Swedish winger then went on to produce just 24 points in 2016-17. His deal has him signed through his age 36 season, meaning he will likely continue his decline. It also includes a no movement clause so the Canucks are stuck with him for the duration of the deal unless he chooses to leave. Unless he really comes around and goes back to his prime production years, paying Eriksson $6M per year is a terrible burden.
5. Semyon Varlamov – $5,900,000
The Colorado Avalanche’s choice to pay out so much money for a goaltender that is not worthy of it makes the organization look like a joke. The Avalanche have been known to be a bottom-seed team for a few years now. By signing this Russian native to a five-year, $29.5M deal, the organization basically spent all this money on a backup quality goaltender.
In the most recent NHL season, Varlamov posted a 3.38 GAA and .898 SP. These stats are way below average for a starting goaltender in the NHL. Varlamov makes $5.9M on average which is ridiculously high for a goalie of this terrible quality. Overall, the Avalanche have truly made a mistake. Varlamov makes just as much as top players on the team and he has proven that he is not a solid foundation for the squad.
4. Marian Hossa – $5,275,000
Like fellow list member Roberto Luongo, Hossa is a likely Hall of Famer who is in his late-30s. He also has a contract that sees him signed through to age 42 and is being paid a large yearly salary despite being in obvious decline. The Slovakian winger has 1,134 points in 1,309 career games, making him a true legend of the sport. At age 38, though, his best years are well behind him. His last credible season came in 2014 when he put up 61 points, and he is likely to just keep getting worse as he ages and the Blackhawks fade as true contenders after their modern-day dynasty run from 2010-2015. Despite this, the Hawks still have to pay Hossa $5.275M average annual salary for the next four seasons!
It seems as if the club and the player may have come up with a solution to this issue though, as it has been announced that Hossa has a skin condition that will force him out of action for next season, conveniently allowing the Hawks to place him on long-term IR and avoid the cap hit of his contract…sounds suspicious!
3. Ryan Callahan – $5,800,000
Another bad contract on this list is Ryan Callahan’s. Approaching the end of the 2014 NHL season, Callahan was traded to the Tampa Bay Lighting. After the season ended, Callahan signed a six-year, $34.8M contract with the squad. At the time, this right-winger was doing fairly well. In the first season after this contract was in effect, he posted 54 points in 77 games – not bad for a new player. Since then, his quality of hockey plummeted drastically.
In the 2015-16 season, the American only posted 28 points in 73 games. That is 26 less points than the previous year. This 32-year-old is not producing the same hockey he once was, and with a 6-year contract, he will be aging out even further before the contact is done. He has already had injuries that led to only playing 18 games in this most recent NHL season. The Lightning are wasting $5.8M yearly to have this player under-perform or not play at all. The organization looks foolish for signing a contract such as this one.
2. Dustin Brown – $5,875,000
Probably the most talked-about name when the “bad contracts” conversation comes up, the L.A. Kings’ Dustin Brown just isn’t worth what he is making. GM Dean Lombardi went a little bit crazy during the Kings’ heyday from 2012-2014, re-signing a few core players to lucrative long-term deals in an effort to keep the successful team together. This backfired, however, as the cost of the deals meant that he couldn’t build around the core pieces, and now the Kings are back to being a middle-of-the-pack team.
The biggest mistake that Lombardi made during this time was the eight-year, $5.875M AAV contract he doled out to then-captain Dustin Brown. The New York native had never put up substantial offensive numbers as a pro, topping out at 60 points in 2007-08. The year before he signed his massive deal, he recorded just 27 points in a full season. The Kings are now stuck with a 30-some point producer taking up almost 10% of their cap space until he is 37. And he has a no trade clause. Anybody else smell a buyout coming?
1. David Clarkson – $5,250,000
The worst contract on this list, and in the NHL, is David Clarkson’s. The most recent season this player played in was the 2015-16 season. Last year, he failed the physical testing for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and was unofficially retired for the season. Since then, the Blue Jackets got a steal when they traded Clarkson and the remainder of his hefty contract to the new Vegas Golden Knights.
What remains of Clarkson’s contract is three years of a seven-year, $36.75M contract. As a right-winger, this player seems to be a fourth-line goon at best who has more penalty minutes than points. In his two seasons with the Blue Jackets, he only posted 4 points in 26 games. His quality of hockey is not worth $5.25M annually… at all. He was getting paid around the same amount as the top players for the Blue Jackets. Overall, the squad lucked out with passing the remainder of his contract off to another team, as now they have the space to obtain younger, more skilled players.
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